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"The Karate Kid/The Karate Kid 2 Boxed Set" {Blu-ray}-(Taylor)
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Sony
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
5/18/10
Special Features:

First film: pop-up trivia (Blu exclusive), commentary with director, stars and actors, East Meets West composer's notebook, Life of Bonsai, Way of the Karate Kid making-of featurette. Second film: Sequel featurette, pop-up trivia (Blu exclusive)

Review:

The Karate Kid is directed by John G. Avildsen (Rocky) and stars Ralph Macchio (My Cousin Vinny), Martin Kove (Rambo: First Blood Part II), Elisabeth Shue (Back to the Future series), Pat Morita (Happy Days), and William Zabka (Back to School.) The film score is by Bill Conti (Rocky, For Your Eyes Only.) The second film features largely the same cast. ***

Before I get on with the review, I want to point out that Sony has ONLY released the first 2 films in the series on Blu-Ray. No word on why the third and fourth weren't released at this time, or if there are even future plans for them. ***

Seriously, who doesn't know the story behind the Karate Kid? Daniel Larusso grew up on the east coast with his mother, and the twosome move out to sunny Cali. Once there, Daniel meets a beautiful girl, but quickly falls onto the hit list of her ex-boyfriend, who happens to be a merciless karate student - and all of his karate school buds. Daniel befriends Mr. Miyagi, an elderly handyman working for the apartment complex Daniel lives in - and eventually begins learning karate from him through highly unorthodox methods. Before long, Daniel must face his tormenters in a karate tournament. The second film follows Daniel and Miyagi going to Japan, where Miyagi pays a visit to his dying father. Daniel meets a new potential love interest, but the trip is anything but peaceful when an old rival of Miyagi's makes an appearance.. ***

Sure, a lot of the Karate Kid is dated - the music, the clothes, the atmosphere… you get the idea. But the first film is a true classic from start to finish with memorable performances and plenty of material that (unexpectedly) became a part of the American pop culture. The second film isn't quite the classic that the first was, but it is still a solid viewing experience and makes for a terrific companion piece to the classic first film. ***

What really make these films stand the test of time is the performances. Mr. Miyagi is the role Pat Morita was born to play. Seriously, there isn't a scene this guy isn't in where your eyes aren't glued to the screen. Whether he's in his workshop trimming bonsai trees or defending Daniel from a Cobra Kai student attack, he makes these HIS movies. Morita particularly gets a chance to shine in the second film, where we learn about his character's past. It is interesting to note he almost wasn't even allowed to audition for the role because of a “no comedians” policy! Other great performances come from the criminally underrated Martin Kove as a sadistic karate master, William Zabka as his top student and Daniel's biggest enemy, Elisabeth Shue as the love interest, and many others. Steve McQueen's son Chad and Larry B. Scott (later the even has a minor role as Cobra Kai students. ***

And of course, Ralph Macchio gives his career-defining performance as Daniel Larusso, our young hero. Despite playing a character in his early teens, Macchio was actually 22 when he played the role in the first film! He gives a believable performance from start to finish, and it is truly difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. ***

The film gets a unique musical sound thanks to the talents of Bill Conti, who teams up with Zamfir, the pan flute legend. The result is a classic “east meets west” score that fits the film perfectly. It's no surprise that Conti was brought back to score the later installments of the series, as well. ***

The first film runs over 2 hours, but director John G. Avildsen keeps things moving at a comfortable pace. The movie never feels rushed, or as if it is dragging. Avildsen makes us care about these characters and the story, just as he did 8 years prior in the original Rocky. It's paced right and the film never feels preachy or unauthentic. The same is true of the second film, although there really isn't any denying that the first movie is the true classic of the twosome. ---

Image And Sound:

As 80s drama pictures, the Karate Kid is the kind of film series that is never going to wow in HD. That being said, however, these Blu-Rays are a significant upgrade over their standard-def counterparts. Detail is stronger and the colors more vibrant - just look at the grass in the soccer field scenes. Some scenes suffer from grain spiking, but this is not uncommon of films from this era and is to be expected. There is almost no dirt or damage on the print - something rare with a film of this age. ***

Much like the video, the audio isn't the kind of track that is going to rock your socks off, but for what it is, it is still an upgrade over the DVD. Dialogue, music, and sound effects are louder and clearer than ever. In plenty of scenes, Bill Conti's classic score comes to life like it never could on the old DVD version. ***

Long story short, these films easily surpass their SD counterparts and are definitely worth the upgrade. If the SD releases were the runners up in the All Valley Karate Championships, these discs are the new champions. Just don't except a revelatory experience.

Special Features:

If you're upgrading your DVD and coming in looking for a wealth of new special features, you are going to be in for a proverbial crane kick to the face. The movies have the same featurettes as their DVD counterparts. These are still good featurettes, and include various interviews/behind-the-scenes footage/etc. with the cast and crew, and are definitely essential viewing for the true fan. ***

New to the Blu-Ray, however, are pop-up trivia tracks. As you watch the film, personnel from the film will talk about their experience, and assorted trivia/notes will appear on screen. I wish they had made the pop-up windows transparent, however, to avoid interfering with actually watching the movie (but that's just a personal complaint.)

Final Words:

If you're looking for new special features, don't bother. But if what you care about is the films themselves (and if that isn't you, why are you even reading this review?), this set is a healthy upgrade over the older standard-def releases. Sure, they are a bit dated, but these films are true classics and will always be fan favorites. The set is easy to recommend to any fan, so stop trying to catch flies with chopsticks, get on your Miyagi Turbo, and go buy this set! ***

And for anyone who cares, you CAN buy the two films separately.

 

 
 
 
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